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The Infesticons - Bedford Park

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Artist: The Infesticons

Album: Bedford Park

Label: Big Dada

Review date: Jun. 8, 2010

The Infesticons, helmed by the singer and rapper Mike Ladd, are a live band that plays a mix of punk, funk, and hip hop. The group perpetuates a mythos that’s as silly as Kiss’s cosmology but also strangely sincere. Big Dada’s press sheet includes some muddle about the Infesticons representing one side of an epic struggle to restore “reality” and defend against the “jiggification of the Five Boroughs,” which seems to have something to do with the rise of electro rap. (Kid Cudi, you’re on notice!) There’s no point in going into the details of the Infesticon’s fanboy narrative — Ladd and crew haven’t bothered to explain it in a way that makes sense, so neither will this review. Best, instead, to turn to the music.

Ladd is a polymath. He sings, he howls, he rhymes, he plucks, he bangs — give him a microphone or instrument and he won’t hesitate to get cooking. On Bedford Park, his newest Infesticons release, Ladd shows off his multifaceted approach with a baker’s dozen of tracks spanning several genres of popular music. Although the Infesticons dismiss nostalgia for the 1980s — apparently, such pining is a symptom of “jiggification” — Ladd has certainly mastered that decade’s themes. His Infesticons have a fondness for rock that is aggressive and acid washed. “Diry Ol’ Man Anthem” recalls both the Birthday Party’s dissonant speechifying and Anthony Kiedis’s chanting rap, while the echoing snares and dripping words of “Forever Anthem” is an obvious allusion to “1999”-vintage Prince. Then there’s “Get Along Anthem,” a rock-rap grinder that smushes together brainless riffing and staccato lyrics barked in the key of Henry Rollins. Much of Bedford Park is openly derived from familiar sources. It is unfortunate and distracting — one can’t listen to Ladd’s album without constantly wondering what artist or style is being referenced.

You’ll notice that all of the songs mentioned so far are self-described “Anthems.” And the moniker fits. Bedford Park is loud, propulsive, hormonal. Even “Sky’s Anthem,” the pensive closer, lacks nuance. Ladd stretches his phrases to connote feeling but, in the process, renders them mostly inaudible, like a hummed approximation of a fully realized song. The end is a tune that has all the depth of an teen’s moan. (It must also be said that Ladd sounds disturbingly like the front man of Kings of Leon; although that’s arguably not his fault, it ain’t exactly adding to his sense of maturity.)

Ladd is at his best when he leaves rock and focuses on the beat and rhyme. The verses and hammering bongo of “Kick Anthem” are a blast, although Ladd could have done without the rugby team sing-a-long chorus, an addition that weighs down the song’s athleticism. And “Bombs Anthem” proves to be the Infesticons’ premier number, capturing Ladd’s smarts and wit and penchant for double-time rhyming, while leaving out his usual attending bullshit.

Although Ladd shouldn’t limit himself to a single genre — for all its faults, Bedford Park is strong evidence of a broadly talented artist capable of working across milieus — his work with the Infesticons suggests that he is truly in his element when he turns to hip hop. He sounds more confident and less tethered; hip hop is the terrain he knows best and through which he most confidently stakes his territory. Ladd may yet become as expert a rocker as he is a rapper. But Bedford Park shows that day is still some ways off.

By Ben Yaster

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